This information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 15 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States. In 2022, COVID-19 became the eighth leading cause of death among children.
The good news is now there are COVID-19 vaccines that have proven to be safe and effective and help prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 for nearly all ages.
COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance
Children aged 6 months and older can receive a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. All eligible children are recommended to get an updated COVID-19 vaccine, even children who have already had COVID-19.
The CDC recommends this guidance for COVID-19 vaccination:
Children aged 6 months to 5 years
- 6 months to 4 years: Three vaccines doses, including at least one updated dose
- 5 years: One updated dose
- Two vaccines doses, including at least one updated dose.
Children who were fully vaccinated with the original Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine should get one dose of the updated vaccine.
Children 6 years and older
Everyone 6 years and older should get one updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, even if you’ve already received the original COVID-19 vaccine. You only need one dose of the updated vaccine to be up to date on COVID-19 vaccination.
Common side effects tend to be mild and temporary. They include fever, headache, chills, tiredness, muscle and joint pain, and pain at the injection site.
To find out where to vaccinate your child, reach out to your doctor, local health department, or visit vaccines.gov.
There are many damaging myths about COVID-19, vaccines, and children that are preventing people from getting the protection they need. Anyone with questions should talk with a trusted, licensed health care provider.
Children can spread COVID-19
Early studies suggested children did not play a big role in the spread of COVID-19 and did not seem to get infected as often. However, more recent studies found some children carry equally high levels of SARS-CoV-2 and can spread it easily to others. This has always been true for older children. According to Andrew Pavia, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health, most hospitalizations and serious complications from COVID-19 have been among kids 12 to 18 years old.
COVID-19 is a serious virus for children
While the earlier strains of the COVID-19 virus did not impact children as much as adults, COVID-19 hospitalizations for children under 18 have soared with more transmissible and contagious strains. Children are at risk of experiencing complications such as hospitalization, death, and perhaps most commonly, long COVID. The number of children hospitalized in Utah and other parts of the country was unprecedented during the fall wave of Delta and the winter wave of Omicron, according to Pavia.
Another condition among children caused by COVID-19 is MIS-C, a serious illness that causes harmful inflammation in different parts of the body. It takes three to six weeks after infection for the condition to develop. "One of the scary things about long COVID is it doesn't seem to matter how sick you get when you are originally infected," Pavia says. "Vaccines will help prevent that and also help prevent MIS-C because it occurs after COVID-19 infection." Most children who develop MIS-C need to be treated in the hospital, with many in the ICU.
It's safe for kids to get vaccinated
The side effects experienced among kids are nearly identical to those of adults. These include pain at the site of injection, headache, fever, and fatigue. Side effects typically last a day or two and can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Currently, the CDC is monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis, an extremely rare and temporary condition associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that may occur in less than .001% of vaccinated people. The CDC continues to highly recommend COVID-19 vaccines because the risk of severe illness and complications associated with COVID-19 infection far outweigh any potential risk from vaccination.
COVID-19 vaccines don't impact fertility
There is no evidence that COVID-19 negatively affects fertility or menstrual cycles. COVID-19 vaccines are considered safe and effective for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and women who would like to have babies. According to studies, people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy are about 40% more likely to develop serious complications or die than those who aren't infected with the virus.